Yesterday, I attended the National Book Festival in DC. This festival is local for me, and I’ve been incredibly fortunate to see countless extraordinary authors over the years. I began attending when the celebration of books took place outdoors on the National Mall, but it has since shifted to the Washington Convention Center. The past two years have been virtual due to Covid-19, but the 2022 Festival moved back to in-person at the Washington Convention Center. (Side note: I have not been around so many “mask wearers” in months. My ‘guesstimate’ is that 80% of attendees were masked. Which I consider proof that readers are some of the most empathetic people you’ll meet, and I was glad to be among “my people.”) Below I’ll share brief highlights of the sessions I attended, but I will also link the full video from the Library of Congress’ YouTube Channel. All sessions were streamed live, making the event a ‘hybrid’ for those who wanted to watch at home. Note, these pictures are mostly my own, captured on my old iPhone 8. Pardon the photo quality. Jason Reynolds’ photo was captured by my friend and co-worker, Liz Campbell.
Panel: Meet Me in the Winner’s Circle: Award-Winning Writers with Donna Barba Higuera, Darcie Little Badger, and Malinda Lo
This panel was expertly moderated by fellow author, Dhonielle Clayton. All of these recent award winners shared what inspired these stories and whether bans/censorship has affected their desire to tell the stories they want to tell. I personally loved the portion of the talk where Higuera discussed science fiction as a genre. Her sci-fi book, Newbery winner The Last Cuentista, will be in my September recap as I am reading it now!
Panel: You’re Such a Nightmare: Horror Novels with Tiffany D. Jackson and Ryan La Sala
This panel was such fun! I have not (yet) read books by either author, but went home with a book by each of them! Both authors touched on the concept of horrors happening by the light of day. But these two authors were the opposite of scary, and had the audience repeatedly laughing. I highly recommend watching their session (which I will link at the bottom of this post), and I am so looking forward to discovering their books!
Panel: Rage Against the System: Teens Who Don’t Back Down with Samira Ahmed and Sabaa Tahir
The highlight of this panel was the banter between the two authors. They are clearly close friends, and seeing how they can mess with each other and at the same time support each other was delightful. The theme of the panel crossed over to how today’s teens can stand up to power and have an impact on their communities.
Panel: Jason Reynolds Talks About His Latest Books
Jason Reynolds was the final author of the day on the Young Adult stage. He discussed his role as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and his latest book Ain’t Burned All the Bright. But for me, the real highlight was when he took questions from the audience. Each answer was filled with metaphors and gems of knowledge that will stick with the audience well after the 45 minute talk concluded.
Panel: The All-Stars of “Blackout” with Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon
The highlight and my own main reason for attending this year’s festival was this panel, which took place on the Main Stage. Moderated by Librarian of Congress herself, Carla Hayden, was a panel with 5 of the 6 New York Times Bestselling authors of the novel Blackout, celebrating Black teen love. I think the picture to the right captures the pure joy of this panel. It was so much fun to hear their stories of how this book came to life, witnessing their camaraderie, and ultimately coming to the conclusion that we need more of this kind of collaboration in our world.
Here are links to video recordings of the Young Adult Stage and “Blackout” on the Main Stage, as well as a link to the full schedule from the 2022 National Book Festival. There were a lot of authors that I did not get to hear, and I’ll definitely be watching the video recordings over the coming week.
PDF of the 2022 National Book Festival Schedule: